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Wandering Signifier: Rhetoric of Jewishness in the Latin American Imaginary


Wandering Signifier: Rhetoric of Jewishness in the Latin American Imaginary Cover


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Publisher Comments:

While Jews figure in the work of many modern Latin American writers, the questions of how and to what end they are represented have received remarkably little critical attention. Helping to correct this imbalance, Erin Graff Zivin traces the symbolic presence of Jews and Jewishness in late-nineteenth- through late-twentieth-century literary works from Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, and Nicaragua. Ultimately, Graff Zivin’s investigation of representations of Jewishness reveals a broader, more complex anxiety surrounding difference in modern Latin American culture.

In her readings of Spanish American and Brazilian fiction, Graff Zivin highlights inventions of Jewishness in which the concept is constructed as a rhetorical device. She argues that Jewishness functions as a wandering signifier that while not wholly empty, can be infused with meaning based on the demands of the textual project in question. Just as Jews in Latin America possess distinct histories relative to their European and North American counterparts, they also occupy different symbolic spaces in the cultural landscape. Graff Zivin suggests that in Latin American fiction, anxiety, desire, paranoia, attraction, and repulsion toward Jewishness are always either in tension with or representative of larger attitudes toward otherness, whether racial, sexual, religious, national, economic, or metaphysical. She concludes The Wandering Signifier with an inquiry into whether it is possible to ethically represent the other within the literary text, or whether the act of representation necessarily involves the objectification of the other.


Explores the symbolic presence of "Jews or Jewishness" in modern Latin American literature.

About the Author

Erin Graff Zivin is Assistant Professor of Hispanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the editor of The Ethics of Latin American Criticism: Reading Otherwise.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: "Jewishness," Alterity, and the Ethics of Representation 1

1. Diagnosing "Jewishness" 29

2. The Scene of the Transaction 74

3. Textual Conversations 119

4. The Limits of Representation 154

Notes 179

Bibliography 195

Index 207

Product Details

Graff Zivin, Erin
Duke University Press
Zivin, Erin Graff
Latin american literature
Jews in literature
Caribbean & Latin American
Semiotics & Theory
Jewish - General
Latin American literature -- 20th century.
Central & South American
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
9.25 x 6.13 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » World History » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Religion » Judaism » History
Religion » Judaism » Jewish History

Wandering Signifier: Rhetoric of Jewishness in the Latin American Imaginary New Trade Paper
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Product details 240 pages Duke University Press - English 9780822343677 Reviews:
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Explores the symbolic presence of "Jews or Jewishness" in modern Latin American literature.
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